Summer is right around the corner, and with it, a plethora of new recipes to try using fresh seasonal ingredients. A true cook knows to start with the best and freshest ingredients, but the most savvy chefs also know that using herbs properly can make or break any dish. Here are a few tips to use herbs to their maximum benefit in the kitchen:
- For a dish that you intend to let simmer for a long period of time try using a more robust herb; because the length of cook time is correlative of when (and what type) of herb to use, your best bet in a simmering dish is to add robust herbs at the beginning of cooking so the flavor can imbue into the dish fully.
- When using a fresh herb in your favorite recipe be sure to bruise the leaves of the plant with your fingers to release extra oils increasing the flavor of the dish.
- Timing plays an important role in cooking with fresh herbs; add the fresh spice to your recipes if you’re looking for a subtle flavor, and if you’d prefer a bolder taste add the herbs at the end of preparation.
It is important to note that not all herbs and spices are created equal, and there is variation with how best to use specific herbs, for example:
– Basil should be added towards the end of a recipe and it pairs well with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, figs, plums, olive oil, eggs, and pasta.
– Mint: peppermint is stronger than spearmint, but both can be added at either the beginning or end of a recipe depending on the desired flavor profile. Mints pair well with lamb, pork chops, berries, cherries, figs, chocolate, and can also be used in cocktails.
– Rosemary is great for grill cooking, but if a recipe calls for chopped rosemary, however, be sure to dice this aromatic spice finely. Release the essence of this flavor by adding whole stems at the beginning of cooking, but remember to remove the stems before serving. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes, lamb, pork, tomato, apricot, onion, and fish.
With as many recipes as there are calling for fresh herbs it can be tempting to bypass the constant trips to the supermarket to cut out the middleman and grow your own. If you’d like to try your hand at a home herb garden keep these tips in mind for a healthy (and yummy!) harvest:
- Begin with a starter plant; this will help to ensure your first growing season is successful.
- Plant in spring or early fall to get the most out of the harvest; however, dill and basil are perfectly suited to be planted in early to mid-summer.
- Not all plants share garden space equally, so you will want to be sure you separate intrusive species so they don’t overtake the other plants.
- Water regularly, with proper drainage it is difficult to over water a healthy herb.
- Properly trim the plant 3-4 inches above the dirt level, then every 3-4 inches after that taking care to cut any flowers.
- Harvest the fresh herbs from the top of the plant for maximum flavor and plant health.
- Basil is a great starter herb as well as oregano, mint, rosemary, and thyme.
The summer season brings sights, sounds, and smells unique to just those few months, but with the right kitchen and garden knowledge you can hang onto that summer feeling just a little bit longer.
This guest post was contributed by Spice Madam, offering a wide array of parceled spices including a spice subscription box and a spice travel kit, which can make traveling and dining much more delightful.